Girls Gone Mild

I must admit that I have been a little disappointed with Wendy Shalit’s Girls Gone Mild. Most of it seems like a rehash of her earlier book A Return to Modesty. Small parts of it also kind of seem like whining that people attacked her for the views in her last book. I don’t know exactly what I expected, but I didn’t expect it to be an examination of the various misogynistic activities that pass as “female empowerment” in today’s society. I think from the title, including the subtitle Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to Be Good, that it would give more examples of young women and girls bucking the over-sexualized status quo of society.

Shalit does start chapter 3, which is about role models, discussing Taylor Moore who is a very upbeat and positive role model of girl power. The Chicago teen gives abstinence talks around the country. And she mentions the Girlcotters. But I think she was missing a lot of things. For instance, while she mentions Pure Fashion show experience, she doesn’t mention how girls are looking for more modest prom dresses in addition to modest everyday clothing.

In her chapter on feminism (chapter 8), she goes on about the different waves of feminism, but I don’t think she does a very good at defining them. I mean, I know that part of the point of the chapter is that people that identify themselves as feminists don’t always agree on what it means. But I think she could do a better job at describing what she means when she refers to different categories. And she doesn’t even mention the ultra-conservative Ladies Against Feminism, who are really into modesty.

I think she could find lots of religious denominations that have programs and people that promote more modesty in dress and action, but she seems to mostly want to stick with secular sources except for examples from her own Orthodox Judaism. It’s almost as if not bring religious people into it might make modesty seem more acceptable to the mainstream, because otherwise modesty is only for religious nuts.

Her early chapter on Bratz dolls just re-enforced mine and my husband’s reluctance to allow our oldest daughter to have anything related to Bratz. We are strictly Barbie around here, and we don’t buy the Barbie MyScene dolls, either. Although, Barbie MyScene is tame compared to Bratz. We always had this disgust with them just off the look alone, but Ms. Shalit goes on to describe some of the Bratz videos and merchandise besides dolls. It’s kind of sickening just to read about; I couldn’t imagine allowing my daughter to actually watch that crap. And my girls aren’t exactly living in a media black hole, my oldest already knows more than I wish she did at times.

I didn’t think it was fair to kick off her chapter examining how great it’s supposed to be to be a “bitch” these days by holding up the Dixie Chick’s song “Not Ready to Make Nice” as an example.  There’s a difference between being a bitch and standing up for yourself.  Since Shalit continually argues that a girl who isn’t promiscuous isn’t necessarily a prude, either, you would think that she would understand that a woman isn’t being a bitch just because she won’t let other people defile her name, misrepresent her, and threaten her.  I don’t think she really got that the point of that song was that I’m not going to be “submissive and apologetic for saying what I think and I’m pissed that anyone expects me to do so in fear of my career or well-being”.  You would think she would sympathize considering she mentions death threats she received after her first book was published.

I really liked Ms. Shalit’s first book, and the past few days I’ve been enjoying her blog, Modestly Yours.
But I’m really thinking that reading her first two books is more of an “either/or” kind of thing rather than “both” being must -reads. Although, she does reference a few other books that seem interesting. I’m going to have to go scour her notes and compile a list for future reading. Yeah, I’m a nerd like that.

Note: I just noticed that she has a third book that was just released in July, The Good Girl Revolution. From the blurb, it kind of appears to just be more of the same. I might look for it in the library in a few weeks, but I’m not really in the mood to hear it all again right now.

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